Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has delivered a stunning blow against the Tories and British Labour’s rightwing Blairites. Theresa May might not survive as Tory leader. With most of the British general election results declared the upshot is a hung parliament.
The general election has dramatically shown the power of simple leftwing policies “For the Many, Not the Few”, to quote British Labour’s election manifesto title. This is the prescription we need in New Zealand to rouse working-class people to vote and kick National out in September. For the NZ Labour-Green alliance to win a clear victory it must drop its conservatism and belief it must appeal to the middle ground. It must drop pandering to the racism it perceives against immigrants. It must take a leaf out of Corbyn’s book and stand for a clear difference to National’s neo-liberal, pro-business policies.
Workers deserve better than the boring, bland blethers of Labour and the Greens. The scapegoating of migrants instead of gunning for the landlords. The ‘budget responsibility’ rubbish instead of clear messages that the rich can be made to pay. The dullness, the complacency, the comfortable nothingness of Andrew Little, Metiria Turei and James Shaw.
Corbyn shows it can be different. When someone with genuine credentials sets out a case on class lines – and fights their corner – an alternative can be built.
When Theresa May called the snap election on 18 April the Labour Party stood at only 25% in the opinion polls. Corbyn was the preferred Prime Minister for only 14% to May’s 50%. May called the election for two reasons. Firstly, she foresaw troubled times ahead over Brexit and for the British economy. Having just a 17 seat parliamentary majority for a fractious Tory Party, May thought she had the opportunity for a Tory landslide victory that would guarantee her position. Secondly, she thought she could deal a death blow to the Corbyn heresy; and on that score the Blairites equally looked forward for Corbyn to lose the election badly and they regain the leadership of the Labour Party.
But Labour’s leftwing manifesto, and Corbyn’s integrity, struck a chord with the public. For once they could see the difference between Labour and the Tories. Labour answered their needs for the end of austerity policies. Investment in education, health and social security would be paid for by taxing the wealthy and corporate profits. Nationalisation of the railways, water services and the postal system signalled an end to neo-liberalism. Above all, workers felt that Labour stood for their class.
Labour’s leftwing policies have paid off for Labour hugely, attracting voters back from UKIP, the Tories and the Greens. In Wales and Scotland, in addition Labour won voters from Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party respectively.
Labour’s campaign has increased the turnout for this election, particularly from young people. With 2 constituencies (electorates) yet to be counted, Labour has amassed 12.9 million votes, greatly exceeding the 9.3 million won in 2015. All it took was for the Party to stand up for the working class. Know-all commentators – all of whom sneered at Corbyn yesterday – will be telling us today and tomorrow that the lessons don’t apply to New Zealand. But let’s be clear: we need that fighting attitude here in Aotearoa.